Image: Janis Nicolay
From setting the mood to choosing the right rosé, here's everything you need to know to achieve the perfect laidback summer evening.
Champagne and ripped jeans, fine food and raucous laughter, bone china and bare feet: When the duo behind Pure Design, a Vancouver-based design firm, throws a party, it’s all about bringing out the best and enjoying it in the most effortless way possible. Because even though Ami McKay and husband Don Thomas entertain their closest friends (a.k.a. The Usual Suspects) almost monthly, they want each and every shindig to feel elevated, organic, intimate and fun – it’s the West Coast way. Here’s how they do it.
1 In the mood
For designer Ami McKay and her husband, Don Thomas, entertaining is all about striking a mood, raising the bar from the last bash and creating memories. “We want everyone to be excited and filled with anticipation when they come over,” says Ami. “We want our friends to look back and say, ‘Do you remember the time...?’”
2 Sun's out, fun's out
“Vancouverites tend to take advantage of every dry and beautiful day they get,” says Don. Sometimes, that amounts to an impromptu party, with favourite neighbourhood friends enjoying cocktails and feasting on local fare. Other times, it’s a relaxed catered meal or a boat ride to a nearby island for dinner. The most consistent aspects of this crew’s almost-weekly hangouts is the loud laughter and camaraderie.
3 Floor show
To keep this catered affair feeling casual and cozy, Ami and Don chose to serve dinner on a low table and seat guests on plush floor cushions surrounding it. Under the cushions, layered Moroccan rugs offer a comfy, colourful, bohemian flair that inspires guests to sit back, relax and dispense with fussing about formalities so they can focus on good food and great fun.
4 Eye candy
The floor surrounding the table makes such a bold and colourful statement that Ami chose to set a minimalistic tabletop. Instead of formal place settings, flatware sits atop the plates with sprigs of just-picked greenery. The real eye candy comes from a spattering of fresh flowers and gorgeous glassware. “I like to collect glasses, plates and napkins so my dinner table looks different every time,” says Ami, who recommends visiting the sale sections of your favourite stores to amass enough to mix and match. And most importantly: “Use the pieces you love best and create memories with them rather than letting them sit in a cupboard and collect dust!”
5 Sea to table
Serving up fabulous fresh eats is essential to Ami and Don’s entertaining style, so whether or not they’re doing the cooking themselves, the menu will always feature whatever’s in season. Prep work involves a trip to the local farmers’ market and, when it’s spot prawn season, a visit to the sea. “Spot prawns are a delicacy unique to the West Coast and they’re bountiful in front of our house, which is right by the Pacific Ocean,” says Don. “We can see the buoys for our traps from our deck.” Once the prawns are plucked right from the water, he sautées them in their shells with garlic and white wine – it’s one of his specialties. “Then, we eat with our hands and make a mess,” says Don.
6 Bar code
When it comes to stocking the bar, Ami and Don only have one rule: Don’t run out. They always stock up on ingredients for a signature cocktail and a special wine or two. “We want to have enough to accommodate the mood. If everyone is enjoying a certain wine we’re serving, we don’t want to run out of it and force people to move on to another drink,” explains Ami. For this get-together, they served light and refreshing summer sips – Moscow Mules, bubbly and rosé.
Get the look
1 Svartrå string lights, $40, .
2 Metal tea light holders, $5 each, .
3 Canvas Image Impressions Cali outdoor rug, $150, .
4 Artisanal Kitchen Supply Edge Mirror flatware, $130 per 20-piece set, .
5 Pryce Rocks glasses, $15 each, .
6 Ixtapa lounge chair, $399, .
7 Mercury Row Branan floor pillow, $100, .